As expected, a bill that could provide funding for a renovation of Husky Stadium has been introduced in the Washington State House of Representatives.
Here it is, slugged HB 2912, and as you can see, it has been referred to the Finance Committe..
It’s the same deal as a year ago. The bill would allow King County to extend the same tourism tax that was used to fund Safeco Field and Qwest Field for other projects, such as a renovation of Husky Stadium. If the bill is approved, UW will then make a proposal to the county for a specific amount of funding.
“We just want them to have the authority to kick it to King County and then have the county make the decision, same approach as last year,” said UW athletic director Scott Woodward.
The price of renovating Husky Stadium has previously been set at $300 million and the Huskies had been seeking to get half of that from the Legislature/County. Woodward said today that it’s likely the price tag will come down by the time it would make a proposal to the County if this bill gets passed.
“Once we go to the County, if it gets to the County, then we will hopefully have value engineered the thing and gotten the costs savings down to where it’s not $300 million but be $250 million or less,” he said. “We haven’t priced it specifically yet.”
One of the biggest reasons the price will come down is the economy, which means the costs of labor and materials aren’t as high as a couple years ago when UW first started this process.
Woodward said the project is ready to go once the school gets funding and he’s optimistic that if this bill is passed, that the County could then approve projects in time for UW to start its renovation after the 2010 season. If that happens, UW will play in Qwest Field in 2011 (a season when UW is scheduled to host USC, Oregon and WSU, among others).
However, the odds of passage of the bill remain long.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Dave Quall, told the Times recently that “it’s going to be a challenge” to get it passed, given lawmakers’ concerns about all the cutbacks being made to other programs.
Should this effort fail, Woodward said the Huskies will embark on a “Plan B,” though he’s not ready yet to say specifically what that will entail. It’s no secret, however, that a major part of either effort will be hitting up large donors for money — either to complete the funding if public money comes, or kick start the effort if the public money doesn’t come. And that effort has been ongoing for some time.
“The good news is we have our house in order as far as it comes to designing it, having a development team and contractor team picked,” Woodward said. “We’re ready to go. Now it’s just down to how we figure out the funding. So it’s really, Plan B will be Plan A1 instead of a Plan B. It will just be how we fund it.”
If public money does not come this year, however, the renovation could be put on hold for at least a year.
“That’s to be determined,” Woodward said of whether it could start after the 2010 season even if public money isn’t available. “We might be able to, but it might be prudent to wait one more year, but we are not sure. Haven’t gotten there yet. Haven’t talked to the Stadium Committee yet. And then we have to decide what the financial model looks like and is it doable. Especially if you are pushing hard for philanthropic dollars you don’t want to force that when you are not ready because you want a lot of the money pledged and in before you start construction, so that would be a concern I would have.”
Asked about the plan for raising the other money that will be needed, Woodward said: “We have a plan. But we are pressing hard now for Plan A. I think we are as far as we can go. Now it’s just down to funding. We are ahead of the game on everything else. Redesign, picking a development team with a contractor and an architect, we are in very good shape there. We are still trying to drive costs down, which I think we are successfully doing, but you just don’t know until you bid it. But we are cutting a lot of things out of it that makes sense that saves money, value engineering.”
There will likely again be some opposition from WSU supporters, though Woodward reiterated previous statements that he doesn’t think that was much of a factor in the bill failing to pass last year, saying the economy was a far bigger reason.
“I think the shock of the economy last year and not being able to focus on anything new was more of a problem than anything else,” he said.
But Woodward said he also thinks the opposition may not be as vocal this time.
“I’m hearing that they are taking a different approach to it,” he said. “That they see that ‘hey, if they get something, we’ll get something.’ I think there is a lot more common sense now taking place and a lot of reality taking place that hey, tearing something down isn’t necessarily a benefit. I think the people involved in fighting it, from my understanding, they are not going to be as vocal. Hopefully that’s not wishful thinking. They are starting to understand that ‘hey, usually when both universities do something, both universities benefit.’ That’s been the most successful path in the past.”